Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Metaphoric Meaning of Dreams August 26, 2014

Dreams symbolically represent underlying truths of which we are unaware. Dream events, like those in fairy tales, fables, myths and films have allegorical, metaphorical meanings. Rarely are they meant to be taken literally.

For example, in my early years of dreamwork I had many dreams about touring an unsuitable new house we were building. In waking reality I had designed the house we lived in and never wanted to leave, so I knew these dreams didn’t mean we would move into a new house I would hate. Then what did they mean?

Houses are a common symbol for the psyche of the person who dreams about them. These dreams were showing me how I was feeling about my current psychological reality. I was living in a “place” that was unacceptable to me. In utter ignorance of who I really was and what was truly important to me, I had worked hard to design and build a profession for myself that was deeply unsatisfying at many levels.

The ego is very good at repressing uncomfortable truths. Despite numerous dreams that dramatized the same issue from a variety of perspectives, eight months after my first dream of an unsuitable new house I still didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I didn’t know because my ego didn’t want to know. Then came the following dream:

#209: Running Out of Gas. It’s a dark night and my car runs out of gas. An old woman pulls up behind me and pushes my car to a doctor’s house. As she walks me to the door I ask her what kind of doctor it is. She says he is a psychiatrist. I was hoping she would say that. We go into the living room. In the center of the floor is a large open book. A young girl in a ballet costume flutters across the room on toe shoes as the doctor tells her how lovely she is. An intense young Russian man expresses a desire to stay in the United States. When the others tell him to stay, he says he can’t disappoint his father; he has to go back to Russia to pay him back for his education. A woman in a cowboy hat sits quietly on the floor in front of me with her back to me.

This dream wasn’t warning me to check my gas tank, see a psychiatrist, take ballet lessons, or travel to Russia. These would be literal interpretations. The metaphoric meaning was that I was “in the dark” (confused) about my life’s journey, and “running out of gas” (energy), but had access to the guidance of a wise old woman (Sophia) who indwelt my psyche and wanted to help me. The people in the house (the inner world of my psyche) were unknown aspects of my personality gathered in the living room (the place where I was “living” my life.) The doctor was my wise inner healer who was helping me with my inner work. The lovely ballet dancer symbolized my desire and potential to return to the graceful, innocent state of my childhood when I felt free to pursue my real interests. The intense Russian (he came from an “alien land” far from my conscious awareness) was the unconscious part of me that felt indebted to the Father (the patriarchal system I grew up in) for its investment in my education.

The Russian student was the key to the meaning of my dream. Pursuing a job I disliked was sapping my energy. I longed for meaningful, creative work but my ego believed it would be wrong and ungrateful to disappoint the teachers, mentors and system which had supported my efforts to become a college professor. In truth, this was the rationalization of an ego which would rather be unhappy than leave a job that brought it the status and prestige it craved.

And the peaceful woman in the cowboy hat who was featured in the lysis, or last image of the dream? She was the me I was yet to become if I continued to pursue self-knowledge: a woman who would quit her unsuitable job, learn to meditate, write her own books, buy her own horse, and wear a cowboy hat with glee! Two months later I quit college teaching for good and stepped into my real life, the one for which I was born, the one I’m living now.

Do dreams really have meaning? You bet!  But try telling that to a fearful and stubborn ego that thinks it runs the whole show and believes it knows best!

Can dreams really foretell your future?  Absolutely! Next time I’ll tell you a story about the unexpected way the woman in the cowboy hat showed up in my waking life many years later.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Animal Healers August 6, 2014

A couple of years ago I babysat a precious golden retriever puppy for three days so my son and his wife could surprise their sons with her on Christmas morning. During that time she developed some digestive issues and by Christmas day she was in obvious distress, needing to be let out of the house every fifteen minutes or so. Was it my fault? Had she eaten a poisonous plant in our yard or swallowed something she couldn’t pass? The thought that I might be responsible was agonizing and I wondered for the umpteenth time why we get so attached to animals and experience some of our greatest joys and deepest sorrows because of them.

Certainly mammals have body structures, nervous systems, organs, instinctual needs, and even DNA very similar to ours. So when they’re sick, wounded or in pain, we know how they feel. Moreover, although most animals can try to flee from danger, there are always forces—including humans and Nature herself—that are far more powerful. Knowing our own fears and vulnerability, we can relate to that aspect of animals too.

Then there’s the unconditional love some animals give us. It’s so comforting when your dog follows you around, your cat purrs contentedly in your lap, or your horse comes running at your approach. You feel known, appreciated, valued. A happy, thriving pet reminds you that you can be loving, nurturing and morally responsible. We crave these good feelings and love the animals who elicit them, so it’s only natural that we get emotional when they suffer or die.

Repression and projection have something to do with the magical relationship we have with animals too. All of us deny some of our unwanted qualities and project them onto people and animals.  For example, I once knew a tough-minded woman who showed no emotion when  talking about her own difficult circumstances, yet she cried easily at the thought of abused animals. To her it felt safe to sympathize with the pain and helplessness of a dog or cat, but she was unwilling to feel her own pain.

At the time I didn’t know if anyone else noticed this about her, but it was painfully obvious to me.  From where did this insight come?  Personal experience. When my parents divorced I cried my heart out. But when my father died three months later I didn’t shed a tear. I was so traumatized that I shut down emotionally so I wouldn’t hurt any more. Denying pain became so important to me that I even refused novocaine when I went to the dentist! For years I couldn’t cry for myself but I could use up a box of tissues watching an animal movie. I still can!

Animals mirror our unconscious, instinctual selves.   This is why we love our pets so much. As they are vulnerable, so are we.  As they suffer, so do we. We know how they feel, they seem to know how we feel. We think we understand them; they seem to understand who we really are. We know we have unlovable shadows, yet they love us anyway. We see their instinctual shadows, and we love them anyway. Because they  trust and depend on us we do not take their devotion or suffering lightly.  We deal with it as best we can, and we know we are better for having made the effort. In the process of learning compassion for them, we discover that we are as deserving of love as they are.

Over the years Miss Lottie, a sensuous Siamese cat; Peri, a perky little chihuahua/terrier mix; Shadow, an elegant, high-strung thoroughbred gelding; and Bear, a handsome and gentle golden retriever, have been my teachers, therapists and healers. Training and caring for them taught me patience and respect for the ways of others. Their simple joy in being alive taught me greater awareness and appreciation for my body and the life in it. Their love and devotion to me helped me feel and express more tenderness and love to everyone, including myself. And the copious tears I shed at their deaths softened my heart and taught me more compassion for others who suffer loss.

By the way, Isabella, or Izzy as Matt’s family called their new puppy, was fine the next day. Apparently her problem was caused by the rawhide puppy treats I gave her to keep her from chewing on my kitchen cabinets. I felt terrible about it, but she kept loving me anyway. And now that she’s come to live with me for the summer,  I remember something I forgot after Bear died.  Being with her makes me feel better about myself. It’s a mysterious thing, this healing power of animals, but it’s real.  And I’m deeply grateful for it.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Will the Real Little Orphan Annie Please Stand Up? May 13, 2014

 

Archetypes are inborn patterns of psychological energy. They have enormous influence over our thinking and behavior whether we realize it or not. Usually we do not.  The human ego does not take easily to introspection. Some seem content to tolerate life’s sufferings without question or complaint.  Others escape through distractions and addictions. But for those who can tolerate the tension between “checking out” and “checking in” long enough, a new, third solution eventually arrives.

My solution arrived when I discovered Jungian psychology and began a regular program of study. One of the early books I read was Carol S. Pearson’s brilliant The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live ByThe Hero archetype is activated by a painful recognition that there is more to us than meets the eye, and by a powerful need to “experience oneness with other people and with the natural and spiritual worlds.” Carl Jung called this the journey of individuation.

The need to take the journey is innate in the species.  If we do not risk, if we play prescribed social roles instead of taking our journeys, we feel numb;  we experience a sense of alienation, a void, an emptiness inside…In shying away from the quest, we experience nonlife and, accordingly, we call forth less life in the culture.” C.S. Pearson

In The Hero Within, Pearson highlights six major archetypes which are influential on the hero’s journey. These are the Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior and Magician.

“The Innocent and the Orphan set the stage:  The Innocent lives in the prefallen state of grace;  the Orphan confronts the reality of the Fall.  The next few stages are strategies for living in a fallen world: The Wanderer begins the task of finding oneself apart from the others; the Warrior learns to fight to defend oneself and to change the world in one’s own image; and the Martyr learns to give, to commit, and to sacrifice for others.  The progression, then, is from suffering, to self-definition, to struggle, to love….the Magician learns to move with the energy of the universe and to attract what is needed by laws of synchronicity, so that the ease of the Magician’s interaction with the universe seems like magic.”  C.S.Pearson

But first, you have to get past the Orphan. When I took Pearson’s self-test to determine the strength of these archetypes, the Orphan got zero points and I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Thank goodness I’ve grown beyond that childish mentality I thoughtBut in my dreams that year, orphans kept popping up demanding my dream ego’s attention. I couldn’t imagine what these sad, needy urchins had to do with me. I was nothing like them. I had high ideals!  I was brave, optimistic, tough, competent, independent!  I never noticed that this was the socially acceptable persona of Little Orphan Annie.  Her unconscious, disowned qualities were so far from my awareness that I could only see them when I projected them outward onto others whom I saw as weak and self-pitying.  I did not know I was wearing a plucky Little Orphan Annie mask, and that beneath it lurked the Orphan archetype’s problem: despair.

“What characterizes despair is just this — that it is ignorant of being despair.” Soren Kierkegaard

The Orphan is a disappointed idealist, and the greater the ideals about the world, the worse reality appears.” C.S.Pearson

Accepting my Orphan within was my first step on the hero’s journey. Carrying The Hero Within in my backpack was one of my Wisewoman’s first choices.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

Conscious Parenting May 6, 2014

Marveling at my first granddaughter.

Marveling at my first granddaughter.

I am so proud of my children: how they turned out, who they married, how well they are raising their children.  Their parenting styles are different in many ways, yet both sets of children are delightful: sweet, funny, bright, good-natured, well mannered….(I could go on, of course, but I’ll spare you more grandparental gushing!) My time with them reminds me that no matter how well-prepared we may believe we are for the role of parenting, much of what we bring to it comes from unconscious factors over which we have no control.

I loved and respected my mother. I saw her as an intelligent, well-meaning, independent woman with an unemotional personality and a hands-off parenting style. Having a full-time job, she was never involved with my brother’s or my education or social lives, trusting us to get along fine without her participation or advice.  And we did.  Get along fine.

Well, except maybe for a couple of little things…  As a child I longed for her to attend my plays and concerts at school.  How good it would have felt if she had been a room mother or attended PTA meetings, how nice to come home to a clean house and find her waiting for me, perhaps with a tray of cookies or freshly baked bread. But I understood and forgave her for having to work and vowed never to let my work interfere with my children’s happiness. Other than that I assumed raising my children with the same love and trust I had received was about all that was necessary.

As it happened, my choices, combined with a lot of good luck, an education in child development, help from a good husband, and a strong desire to be a good parent made me a good-enough mother.  But beneath the conscious aspects of my upbringing and later on, of my parenting, was an emotional undercurrent of which I was utterly unaware.

Helping my son change a diaper.

Helping my son change a diaper.

As a child I took my mother’s emotional reserve and unwillingness to discuss family problems for granted. I would never have guessed that her untaught lessons, unexpressed feelings and unrevealed truths would leave me ill-equipped to handle many psychological aspects of child-rearing.

I never heard or saw my parents argue. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Daddy was rarely home!)  Moreover, I can think of only two instances when my mother and I exchanged heated words. The time she used the word “damn,” I was shocked into silence. Intuiting her emotional fragility and wanting to spare her more pain after my parents’ divorce and Daddy’s death, I spared her the normal adolescent phase of rebellion by disowning my uncomfortable emotions.  For years I thought that was admirable. What a good girl I was!  Just like Mama.

Naturally, this influenced my parenting.  Without knowing it, I was so intimidated by conflict and anger that at the first sign of agitation my default response was, like my mother’s, avoidance.  Since my family rarely saw negative emotions from me, I believed I was very good at keeping them under control. I was, but that wasn’t a good thing!  On the rare occasion when shutting my mouth, swallowing my emotions or distancing myself didn’t work, I was quick to grow impatient, irritated and stern.  And if that didn’t shock them into silence, an angry eruption from me would. That may have been an effective way to relieve my anxiety, but it was a dismal model of emotional maturity.

Our parents’ unresolved issues flow into us through dark underground passageways, and if we don’t bring them to the light of consciousness we pass them on to our children. With every gain I’ve made in managing my anxiety,  I’ve gifted my family with one less problem to contend with. I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, or grandmother, whatever these elusive creatures might be, but knowing I’ve lightened my family’s inherited psychological burdens gives me comfort.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

Dragon Lady: Shadow of the Queen April 25, 2014

The Western world has been obsessed with the masculine aspects of Deity for thousands of years. As a result, to experience the Sacred Feminine we must be willing to enter the remote caverns in our unconscious selves where we have dumped all our unwanted garbage in hopes we could forget it ever existed.  In sum, we must be willing to develop a relationship with our “dragons,” by which I mean our frightening, disowned, less-than-lovely selves.

The myths that emerged in the Near East around 2000 BC featured a male deity who, unlike the son/lover of the previous Goddess religion, was a storm god of fire and lightning who conquered a dragon of darkness and evil. According to Merlin Stone, author of When God Was a Woman, “…the plot and the underlying symbolic theme of the story is so similar in each myth that, judging from the stories that do use the name of the female deity, we may surmise that the allegorical identity of the dragon or serpent is that of the Goddess religion.”  Some still call a powerful, assertive woman a Dragon Lady. To many males, (and some women), especially those with domineering mothers, their own feminine sides and certain women seem extremely dragon-like:  something terrible and threatening that needs to be overcome.  Jung agreed and considered the dragon to be “a mother-image (that is, a mirror of the maternal principle or of the unconscious)…”

But the dragon is by no means all negative.  Hindus and Taoists consider dragons to be powerful spiritual beings, masters of the waters and guardians of treasures, especially the pearl of perfection that symbolizes enlightenment and bestows immortality. The Herder Symbol Dictionary says that in China and Japan the dragon grants fertility “because it is closely associated with the powers of water and hence with the yin [feminine] principle.” Thus, one meaning of this paradoxical symbol is that if we wish to attain the highest levels of consciousness and spirituality, we need to face all the despised and rejected qualities we have relegated to the feminine unconscious, and it is this descent that earns us the ultimate prize.

Unconscious parts of ourselves acquire negative power because of the well-known psychological law that the longer and harder we repress them, the more energy we give them until they start influencing our behavior in disagreeable ways.  They are like sweet little girl dragons which start out innocently enough.  If we love them and allow them to come out and play they will grow up to become our friends. But if we ignore them and starve them and keep them cooped up in dark and cramped cages — in much the same way many male-dominated cultures have treated women and their own feminine sides —  they grow stronger and angrier every day.

While the bad news is that facing the Dragon Lady, a symbol for the Queen archetype’s shadow side — i.e., the regressive powers of the feminine unconscious — can be very painful, the good news is that she can initiate us into a far nobler fate than we could ever imagine.  After all, if Snow White had not been terrorized by the evil Queen she never would have run into the wilderness, met her protectors, the seven dwarves, eaten the poisoned apple, and been awakened by the kiss of the prince to experience union with her Beloved.

Prince Ego’s search for the princess, our unconscious feminine self, is the authentic hero’s journey, and their union symbolizes wholeness or enlightenment, the ultimate prize and true destiny of every soul.  So the next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable truth about yourself, it might help to remember that facing and befriending the Dragon Lady is the price of the prize.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Positive Side of Depression April 22, 2014

In her brilliant book, “Psychic Energy,” Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding writes: “When life presents us with a new problem, a new chapter of experience for which the old adaptation is inadequate, it is usual to experience a withdrawal of the libido. For one phase of life has come to an end, and that which is needed for the new is not immediately at hand. This withdrawal will be experienced in consciousness as a feeling of emptiness, often of depression, and certainly of inertia, with an overtone of self-rebuke because of what seems like laziness or sloth.”

Have you ever been there? I have. Many times. And each time it happens it takes a while before I remember that this is simply another step in the journey. The road may be leading downhill for now, but it’s still there, and as long as I can place one foot in front of the other the story isn’t over yet. But what are we to do while we’re in the abyss of emptiness? The depths of depression? The islands of inertia? The swamps of self-rebuke?

First of all, we need to remember that when our libido, or psychological energy, withdraws, it is not gone forever. The laws of physics tell us that energy can be transformed but not destroyed. When we feel a loss of energy it simply means that the energy which was formerly available to our ego has sunk into the unconscious. Once it gets there, forces over which our egos have no control will have to be mobilized before the energy can return to consciousness. The ego usually feels to blame, but it is not, because it has no control over unconscious forces.

Second, in the words of Harding, “When the light of life dims and one is left in the darkness of depression, it is much more effective to turn for the moment from the objective task and to concentrate attention on what is going forward within, instead of forcing oneself to continue by a compulsive effort of the will.” Once the libido is no longer available to our ego, will power can only be used effectively to “follow the lost energy into the hidden places of the psyche by means of creative introversion.”

Creative introversion means working with our fantasies and dreams in creative ways that feel meaningful. These products of our unconscious speak to the hidden forces which have sucked our libido down into the dark belly of the whale, and their images can give us clues not only to the nature of the difficulty, but also to the solution.

For example, many years ago toward the end of an extended period of libido loss I kept imagining myself as a baby chick still inside an egg, pecking at the shell. I knew I felt trapped, but I didn’t know what was trapping me or how to get out. Exploring this and other waking and dreaming images through art, journaling and dreamwork highlighted features of my persona that had initially protected the new life in me but were beginning to smother it. As I kept pecking away, cracks appeared in my shell until it finally collapsed and I stepped out of my self-imposed prison. The extraordinary infusion of new life I’ve experienced since then has taught me to see libido loss and depression not as obstacles or enemies, but as helpful guides along the way.

My thanks to Dr. Judith Rich for the inspiration for this post. Check out her article on the Huffington Post to see her wonderful take on a related topic.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Value of Ritual April 15, 2014

In 1997 four other women and I formed an organization we called The Matrix. Our purpose was to discover, define, and address what is valuable in the lives of women. Having experienced many benefits from engaging in personal rituals, it was important to me to find concrete and memorable ways to express our hopes and desires for the Matrix — for example, to devise meaningful programs, to relate honestly, to work in harmony with one another, and to help women create connections with their own deep wells of wisdom — and so I created rituals for each meeting as well as the events we produced. To my delight, the others participated eagerly, and after a while I earned the unofficial title of “Ritual Lady,” a distinction I wore with great honor.

At first, the most obvious benefit of our planning session rituals was that they connected us with our innermost selves, often at levels much deeper than those normally accessible. Rarely did we complete a ritual without deep emotion and affirming new insights. This soul-baring work established the foundation for an unusual degree of intimacy and trust which gradually changed our group from a secular organization into a spiritual community. As a woman who has been very slow to trust that others would accept me if I spoke my soul’s truths, I experienced a huge breakthrough the first time my Matrix sisters created a special ritual for me in which to express some anger. Their encouragement to communicate honestly and openly, and their acceptance when I did, was life-changing.

I would never have had the courage to do this if we had not, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year taken the time to create a sacred container for ourselves and our work through ritual. For me, this proves the truth of an assertion by Kay Turner in her article, “Contemporary Feminist Rituals,” that “Feminist ritual practice is currently the most important model for symbolic and, therefore, psychic and spiritual change in women.”

Whether personal or collective, rituals help transform individual souls and bring them into proper relationship with One Soul. In Turner’s words, “…ritual space and activity are sacred in the sense of representing the possibility of self-transformation. Part of the power and the fear experienced in ritual is the realization that one may change, become ultimately different, as a result of the experience or that the experience may suddenly make recognizable change that has been slowly rising from the depths of personality and ideology.”

A major benefit of ritual is growth in consciousness. As I wrote in my post from February, 2011 titled “Your Body As Your Partner in Dreamwork,” I’ve found that participating in original rituals helps me clarify and integrate important new insights. Even if I should someday forget the ritual my Matrix sisters conducted for me, the courage, relief, self-validation and personal empowerment I experienced changed me forever. I still feel anger and other powerful emotions, of course, but I am no longer at their mercy, nor do I feel compelled to deny them healthy outlets, for the simple reason that I am more conscious.

Before I began writing this post I lit the lemon grass and wheat-scented candle on my desk and spent a moment in quiet self-awareness. This never fails to inspire me. When I am finished, extinguishing it will bring the comfort of knowing I have completed a task that is important to my soul. What are the rituals that nourish your soul?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 
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